The SAT and ACT have announced that they are starting new security measures to reduce cheating on the exams.The new measures include the requirement that students will need to submit a head shot photo of themselves when they register for the test. This photo will be on the admission ticket students receive to get into the exam and will also be on the test site roster.
Initially, the photo was also going to be included on the test results sent to the colleges the student was applying to. The ACT has now announced that they will not be doing this. The SAT has said that they will create a database where the photos can be accessed by the colleges if they suspect someone other the applicant took the test.
All of these requirements start to take place for exams taken this fall.
I understand the desire to decrease cheating on the SAT and ACT. But, if a student really wants to cheat they will still be able to figure out a way to do so. For example, submit the photo of a test taker that looks somewhat like the student and have that student take the test.
I also have concerns about the availability of the photos from students taking the SAT. There are obvious privacy issues here that raise all sorts of potential problems. In the past, photos were used by the Ivy League colleges to keep down the number of Jewish students that they accepted. While I certainly hope that is not where we are going with this, it does illustrate the type of problem that can occur.
Finally, there is the obvious concern about disclosing what students look like to the colleges. Will colleges discriminate based on the appearance of the student? I don’t believe most colleges would do this but there are subtle feelings that people develop when seeing the appearance of another person. Will that have a possible adverse affect on admissions decisions? Maybe. And that is something that I don’t believe is appropriate.